Better Place experiments with WPF & Windows XP for in-car electronic console

Better PlaceIf you haven’t heard of “Better Place“, I urge you to first watch this highly convincing TED presentation by Shai Agassi, the company’s founder, about his bold plans to transform the world entirely to electric cars. Their vision alone was enough to get me excited about the company, but what really grabbed my attention was actually what they were planning to use in the cars.

Tamir Khason, a former Microsoft technologies consultant in Israel now software architect at Better Place, has been working on the electronic console for these cars in the past year and has recently revealed that there is serious consideration to use Windows Presentation Foundation as the graphics platform. Suffice to say I never thought I’d see WPF in a car, nevertheless, it looks pretty awesome.

Better Place in-car console WPF prototype

Better Place in-car console WPF prototype

Better Place in-car console WPF prototype

Better Place in-car console WPF prototype

And this isn’t just some pretty mockup on screen either. There is a short snippet of the software in action in a video by WorldFocus, screencapped for your convenience here.

Better Place in-car console WPF prototype

If the consideration to use WPF in a car wasn’t enough to blow you mind, then how about the other consideration to use WPF on top of a Windows XP install? The first thing that comes to mind might be the obligatory blue screen of death jokes, but Tamir argues that Windows XP is not only capable but can be faster to boot than other embedded systems. As a demonstration, he proves a tweaked version of Windows XP on a low-powered netbook can actually boot faster than a Nokia smartphone.

The system however has not been finalized and the WPF/XP combination is one of several under consideration. After getting in touch with Tamir I’ve also learned that other implementations of the same user-interface exists in WPF with Windows 7, DirectX with XP and Windows 7, a UI framework in the Linux platform Moblin, and OpenGL on a custom version of Linux. Currently one of the barriers facing WPF/XP is the licensing cost which adds significant cost to the solution.

Ideally Microsoft could help these guys out with some sort of licensing deal, but even if it ends up not working out, it’s cool to see WPF proposed to be used in such an interesting environment.

Update: I might have originally used the wrong term, “dashboard”, to describe this. Note this is not replacing the dashboard and gauges, but a center console device giving you navigation and other services.

23 insightful thoughts

  1. I would sure love to buy this device…

    I have not used or see anything useful that was WPF. It has been out for how long now? WPF would be sweet for PowerPoint…etc where graphics matter, yet these things do not happen.

  2. WPF is going mainstream starting this year. it is already visible in the enterprise levels but now with WWT, Photosuru, Expression 3, Visual Studio going 100% WPF and Office 14 going half the way. i think i can safely say that.

    The reason it took so long was that it didn’t have good performance and the needed maturity until.NET 3.5 SP1. my guess is that .NET 4.0/WPF 4.0 is going to take this to new levels and that is the reason why there is now the confidence to put it into Flagship Microsoft Products.

    Another interesting thing is that Office 15 and the Windows Live Suite are supposedly going to be 100% WPF too in the future. so i guess projections for.NET/WPF are big.

    XP Embedded got its big debut in the Olympics. there was a notorious BSD because they were using a unfinished version and some rushed applications (or so the reports said). now it is fully mature and it is what is going to power a lot of carputers and TV’s coming out this year.

  3. Hmm, I’m not sure I would agree that the cost is all that high really when you consider that with this solution you could effectively get a full-blown computer in addition to just a navigation system (that is unless they restricted the UI so that you could only access the navigation portion). This is really sweet, thanks for sharing.

  4. @Pingpong: yes, don’t get too excited. the ones getting more WPF are not a single one of the 6 flagship apps. rememeber that Office 14 suite is now 14 apps big. one of the only ones you can easily identify why would want to use more WPF is Visio. look up the leaked screenshots from the Office 14 alpha build and even then it will be easy to identify.

    Today it came the official confirmation of the 64bits version of Office 14 (Office 2010) and also the confirmation of the Office 2007 SP2 to hit in 2 weeks. Sharepoint Designer is now free and it is also one of the apps that will be full WPF sooner than later according to reports.

    Continuing with the XP embedded note. i also recently saw that it is what is going to be used for some new Supermarket cashiers for developing countries. i already saw some of them here in Mexico. easily recognizable because of the Azure Embedded Theme.

  5. Looks fantastic! I definitely want something like this in my car 🙂 I’m quite surprised WPF can run on this kind of hardware, I thought it needed a high-end graphics card???

  6. @JimJim: not at all. WPF can run even on the lowest end netbooks. the difference is that it can be fully GPU accelerated given it has full 3D visuals capability.

  7. @Avatar.X: I’m not excited at all – I’m not a WPF fan 🙂 I don’t think MS would risk the future of their cash cow (a.k.a Office) by porting it to slow, bloated framework like WPF. But of course when new version becomes available we’ll be able to check what’s been WPF’zed.

  8. Office 14 is not going “half the way”, neither Word, Excel, Access nor Visio will use WPF. WPF is only used inside DevDiv and not in the Office or Windows Devision.

    “Another interesting thing is that Office 15 and the Windows Live Suite are supposedly going to be 100% WPF too in the future.”

    Nothing but speculation. Your comments have ZERO substance.

  9. @Andre: time will tell my friend. Office 15 is what 3 years away?. the speculation and educated guessing here comes directly from advances that both .NET and WPF are doing inside Microsoft and the specific comments taken from numerous interviews to Scott Guthrie and lots of sessions on WPF given by actual people working at Microsoft. the bottom line is that .NET and WPF is what is being pushed more and more for applications all around in the same way Silverlight is what is going to be pushed as the cross platform and web enabled client.

    When would have any thought that Visual Studio would go that way 3 years ago or that the entire Surface Computing Initiative would be all about .NET/WPF apps?.

    i am so sure of my comments that i would gladly bet $100 dollars that there will be some WPF in Office 14. 🙂

  10. @andre: but i want to give some context to the why of my comments since you decide to badmouth me. Microsoft got a resemblance to Sony in one area: it is truly disconnected and things from concept to product take AGES. the best example i can give and that there is public comments i made on a Techcrunch post (i think) close to 3 years ago is when i was talking about a concept that at the time was percolating as “Office Live Desk”. that was supposed to be what in the end was broken in to very different things: Office Live Workplace and Office Web Apps. the later has not even been shown and it should be finally revealed in this year PDC or after September whatever come first.

    Office Live Desk was supposed to be a fully integrated Online Office Solution. so it went from concept to product in two parts. one released in private beta a little over a year after concept and its most important components have not been released yet and over 3 years will pass for them to be finally released…..

    =Being a good insight guy on anything Microsoft will make you look wrong because Microsoft concepts,initiatives and priorities change quite wildly and this makes predicting things a challenge.

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  12. As a developer, I think WPF and especially Silverlight are maturing pretty well. Have a look at this recreation of a future desktop from Microsoft’s 2019 Vision..

    Despite the app being a demo and with no glossy transition effects, it’s pretty accurate and usable.. I think we are starting to see the point where Silverlight and WPF (especially with Surface) are gathering critical mass..

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